Grad admissions task force submits final report; comment period through June 24


June 8, 2011

The Task Force on Improving Graduate Admissions, formed by the Dean in January of this year, has submitted is final report (read the Dean’s message on its motivation, charge, and membership).

The Task Force has done an outstanding job and is gaining great momentum and support across the Institute towards an all-electronic, centralized graduate admissions system. Dean Ortiz is grateful to the members of the Task Force for their willingness to serve in this capacity, their enthusiasm and all of their hard work and accomplishments in such a relatively short period of time. She would also like to thank those who took the time to meet with the Task Force members.

The executive summary of the report is found below. Members of the MIT comunity who wish to read the full report should e-mail Communications Officer Heather Fry at heatherf@mit.edu.There will be a two week comment period extending through Friday, June 24th. All thoughts, suggestions and input are welcomed.

Based on this feedback, the feasibility of the Task Force recommendations for an all-electronic centralized graduate admissions system will be considered. The implementation details and timelines will be developed after the comment period over the summer. The latter sections of the report motivate further study in conjunction with faculty, staff and students and will be carried out over the coming year.

 

Report of the Task Force on Improving Graduate Admissions: Executive Summary

Towards an MIT-supported, all-electronic admissions system, and a highly diversified applicant pool
June 8, 2011

This report provides recommendations for improving current graduate admission practices in the context of application processing and review, under-represented minority (URM) recruitment and overall yield activities. In addition to interviewing a number of experts, information was collected by surveying 38 graduate programs/departments at MIT. The survey was conceived by the Task Force and administered by the Office of Institutional Research.

Based on the collected information, we recommend the development of an opt-in, centralized, web-based admissions system that fulfills the following three main functions:

(a) Collection of application materials from applicants, recommenders, and testing services, followed by automated assembly into a complete application for each applicant;
(b) Assignment and distribution of applications to faculty reviewers, with functions to collect reviewer scores and comments, tabulate results, and provide data and rankings needed for decision making; and
(c) Online communication with applicants for providing updates on application status, admissions decisions, recruiting of admitted applicants (e.g. links to relevant faculty web pages) and integration into MIT community (e.g. obtaining MIT certificates, events calendar, housing forms, etc).

We recommend that the proposed system be created by extending the already existing software developed by Professors Morris and Kaashoek (EECS) for use by their department for application collection and review. In recent years, this software has been successfully used by three additional academic units with excellent results. Transition of all academic units wishing to participate is proposed to take place within the next 3 admissions cycles. The transition process will be overseen by a subcommittee of the Committee on Graduate Programs (CGP) which will also set plans and policy for the long term maintenance and support of the system, as well as privacy considerations.

Based on the information collected from the survey, we make a number of recommendations for improving the recruitment and yield of URM students. These are based on the following observations:

  • Allowance for differences in School profiles must be made when developing recruitment
    strategies;
  • Support for programs that help overcome misconceptions about Boston and MIT is crucial;
  • For recruiting purposes, small departments/programs can schedule joint social events (e.g. joint Open House activities) as a means of offering an improved sense of community;
  • The proposed web-based admissions system will provide additional functionality towards
    targeted recruitment.

We conclude with some ideas and discussion of best practices for further improving the quality of graduate students at MIT by increasing the yield among the top students. Data shows that our yield in this class of students can be signifi cantly improved by o ffering fi nancial support early during the admissions process.

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